Evgeni Plushenko

Yevgeny Plushenko named to Russia Olympic Team; figure skating roster

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Yevgeny Plushenko headlines a strong Russian figure skating team that looks to be the favorite for gold in the new Olympic team event.

Plushenko was named to his fourth Olympic Team, one day after performing in front of Russian officials in a test skate to determine if he would be the nation’s lone men’s singles skater.

Plushenko won Olympic silver in 2002, gold in 2006 and silver in 2010. He’s trying to become the second skater to win four Olympic singles medals, joining Swede Gillis Grafstrom, who won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.

Canada’s Patrick Chan and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu are seen as the top men, but the rest of the field has been up and down over the past season.

The Russian women are Yuliya Lipnitskaya, 15, and Adelina Sotnikova, 17, who went one-two at the European Championships last week. Lipnitskaya is seen as at least the favorite for bronze in Sochi, and she could enter the picture for gold with Yuna Kim and Mao Asada.

Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov lead three pairs teams. They are the reigning world and European champions but were beaten by German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at the Grand Prix Final in December.

The other pairs teams are Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov and Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov.

Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev are the top Russian ice dance couple and European champions. Ice dance gold is expected to come down to American world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

The other ice dance couples are Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov and Viktoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin.

No other country can boast medal threats across all four figure skating disciplines, which bodes well for Russia’s chances in the team event that begins the day before the Opening Ceremony.

Ashley Wagner changes long program

Pyeongchang Olympic organizers optimistic with 500 days to go

Security personnel stands by a logo of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games before an event to mark the start of the 500-day countdown in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. With 500 days until the Olympic cauldron is ignited in Pyeongchang, organizers of the 2018 Winter Games say 90 percent of construction on new venues is complete and the focus of preparations is on test events. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Marking the 500-day countdown to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, organizers said Tuesday that 90 percent of construction of new venues is complete and the focus is now on preparing for test events.

Pyeongchang’s organizing committee said construction is on schedule for a series of sports competitions scheduled from November to April that will serve as rehearsals for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9, 2018.

The six new competition venues for the games are now 88 percent complete and a new high-speed rail line – designed to link the country’s main gateway of Incheon airport with Pyeongchang in less than two hours – will be completed next June and start operations in January 2018, organizers said.

The preparations are undergoing a transition from the “planning phase to operational readiness,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

“Asia has immeasurable potential to become the frontier of winter sports. Pyeongchang has been dedicated to promote winter sports and attract investments throughout Asia,” the committee said.

Noting that the 2018 Games will be the first of three consecutive Olympics in Asia, the committee said Pyeongchang will be an “opportunity to establish even closer links among the next host countries and build bridges through sports.”

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, while Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Games.

Pyeongchang organizers have overcome delays, local conflicts over venue constructions and difficulties attracting domestic sponsorships in past years. Optimism over preparations has increased after the successful hosting of the first round of test events at Alpine venues earlier this year.

Despite a slow start, organizers say more than 80 percent of the domestic sponsorship target of $850 million has been met and that they expect to reach 90 percent of the target by the end of the year.

A program of cultural events featuring pop singers and local sports stars was held in Seoul on Tuesday evening to mark the start of the countdown.

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 06:  Chloe Kim celebrates a first place finish in the ladies' FIS Snowboard World Cup at the 2016 U.S Snowboarding Park City Grand Prix on February 6, 2016 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Today marks 500 days until the Opening Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics.

Below are five U.S. athletes to get to know before February 9, 2018:

Ryan Bailey (Bobsled): Bailey, who finished fifth as a sprinter in the London Olympic 100m, is attempting to compete at the 2018 Olympics as a bobsledder. On Sept. 21, just weeks into his bobsled career, he won the men’s push athlete national title. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

MORE: Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson (Speed Skating): Bowe and Richardson have been trading world records in recent years. Last November, Bowe broke her own women’s 1000m world record, only to have Richardson lower it just three minutes later. A week later, Bowe broke the world record in the event once again.

MORE: Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Figure Skating): The future is uncertain for Davis and White, who became the first U.S. couple to win an Olympic ice dance title in Sochi. They have not competed since the 2014 Olympics, but they have also not announced their retirement.

MORE: Where Meryl Davis, Charlie White stand on possible comeback

Chloe Kim (Snowboarding): Kim mathematically qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in halfpipe, but at 13, she was not old enough to be eligible to compete in Sochi. A U.S. woman has won gold in the event at three of the past four Olympics, but Kaitlyn Farrington, who won halfpipe gold in Sochi, retired after being diagnosed with a spinal condition.

MORE: Kaitlyn Farrington retires from snowboarding

Mikaela Shiffrin (Alpine Skiing): Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion at the 2014 Games, when she was 18. Four years later, she is hoping to become the first Alpine skier — man or woman — to repeat as slalom gold medalist. She also could become the first U.S. women’s Alpine skier to win gold medals in multiple Olympics.